Dieselgate company car drivers

#Dieselgate: company cars set for a nasty shock?

Dieselgate company car drivers

Company car drivers could be in for a shock in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. That’s according to London chartered accountants, Blick Rothenberg. Company car benefits are based on the list price and the approved CO2 emissions of the vehicle, with diesel-engined cars attracting a 3% supplement.

It stands to reason that if cars are retested following the scandal, company car tax could rise on a number of vehicles. It has been confirmed that Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda models fitted with the EA189 diesel engine are affected, all of which are popular within the fleet sector.

Higher taxable benefits for employees

Caroline Le Jeune, partner at Blick Rothenberg, said: “For UK-based employees with company cars, the taxable value of the benefit as shown on the employee’s P11d is likely to have been incorrect.

“Whilst there is no expectation of HMRC taking retrospective action in these highly peculiar circumstances, no official comment has been made.

“Going forward, company car benefits are likely to need to be recomputed using the updated CO2 emissions figures, which will lead to higher taxable benefits for employees.”

The government moved from the old mileage-based system in 2002, switching to the more complicated approach based on CO2 emissions and list price. In short, the more CO2 your car emits, the more tax you pay. A tax escalator ensures the bill can go up every year, so many company car drivers will be awaiting the conclusion of this scandal with interest.

It’s too early to speculate whether this will result in more drivers choosing to take the alternative cash allowance, or indeed weigh up their options when the list of available cars is next passed around the office. But there’s little doubt that the emissions scandal could have deep ramifications for the wider business community.

You can follow the latest #DIESELGATE developments here.

BMW

BMW: we do not manipulate emissions tests

BMWBMW Group has issued a powerfully-worded statement stating it “does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests” – following claims by German magazine Auto Bild that a BMW X3 displayed the same discrepancies that has led to the #dieselgate scandal engulfing Volkswagen.

The statement is clear: “Our exhaust treatment systems are active whether rolling on the test bench or driving on the road.”

The VW emissions scandal centres around this very point – exhaust treatment systems featured a ‘defeat device’ that saw them activated for emissions tests but deactivated when on the road.

“Clear, binding specifications and processes are in place through all phases of development at the BMW Group to avoid wrongdoing.

“We are willing do discuss our testing procedures with the relevant authorities and to make our vehicles available for testing at any time.”

Auto Bild has since issued a clarification, adds BMW. It reads: “No evidence of emission manipulation by BMW.

“The values mentioned in the document were only generated in a single, one hour-long road test. Auto BILD has no access to the details of this test trail, which might explain the discrepancies to the test cycle NEDC.”

Ford Bridgend petrol engines

Ford approves new £181m Brit-built petrol engine range

Ford Bridgend petrol enginesFord has approved a new £181 million range of petrol engines to be built at its plant in Bridgend, South Wales – entirely coincidentally, in the same week as #dieselgate threatens the future of the diesel engine.

Production of the new engines will begin in late 2018. They are currently being designed by teams based in Britain and Germany.

Welsh economic minister Edwina Hart welcomed the news: “Ford is a Welsh Anchor Company and the Bridgend Engine Plant plays a key role in the economy of South Wales.

“In a climate of stiff global competitiveness, we have been actively seeking to win a share of this investment for Wales and so we are delighted with today’s announcement”

A total of 750 skilled Welsh jobs will be secured “for many years”, added Hart.

Ford used the announcement to remind us that one in four of all Fords sold in Europe uses an Ecoboost petrol engine. One in five uses the award-winning 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol motor.

Five million Fords sold worldwide have been fitted with an Ecoboost petrol engine, which uses features such as turbocharging and direct injection to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions to near-diesel engine levels – without the associated NOx penalties.

As the VW emissions scandal threatens to engulf the automotive industry and the future of diesel in Europe, Ford’s Welsh investment may be extremely well-timed. Prepare to be busy, Bridgend…

Matthias Muller

VW scandal: who is Matthias Müller?

Matthias MullerMatthias Müller was born in 1953 joined the Volkswagen Group empire in 1977, as an apprentice toolmaker at Audi. He then had a career change, going back to college at Munich University to study computer science, but returned to Audi in 1984 as a junior manager in the IT department.

Who is Martin Winterkorn?

Müller rose through the Audi ranks during the 1980s and joined the planning department in 1993 – becoming product manager for the Audi A3, today the world’s most successful premium family hatchback that’s sold 3.5 million units and counting.

#Dieselgate on Motoring Research

The success of the A3 earned him the top job for product management at Audi in 1995. Martin Winterkorn became chairman of Audi in 2002 and Müller became chief strategist for the Audi and Lamborghini model lines (Audi had recently purchased the Italian sports car company).

Müller and Winterkorn clearly worked well together: when Winterkorn became CEO of Volkswagen Group in 2007, Müller became his general representative and, later, head of product strategy for the entire Volkswagen Group.

In 2010, Müller CEO of Porsche AG and, in 2014, the chief information officer of the parent company Porsche Automobil Holding SE (the controlling owner of Volkswagen AG). Ironically, this came after a scandal between Porsche and Volkswagen, where the sports car brand ambitiously tried to take over Volkswagen AG.

Under Müller’s stewardship, Porsche has become Volkswagen Group’s most profitable subsidiary by car. An enthusiast, he took Porsche back to Le Mans, winning the 24 Hours race this year, and he has always ensured Porsches remain Porsches and don’t become diluted by sharing parts with other Volkswagen Group cars.

Today, Müller has took on the toughest job in the motor industry, becoming CEO of the Volkswagen Group following the resignation of Winterkorn this week.

His closeness to the Porsche and Piech families (he was actually the choice of former chief Ferdinand Piech to replace Martin Winkerkorn earlier this year in a failed boardroom revolt), and his willingness to openly speak his mind, will ensure he has good support for the massive task he has ahead. It’s a formidable challenge indeed.

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

Picture the scene. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, I’m driving home from a great day at the Beaulieu Autojumble and I’ve left enough time to take the scenic route up the A34 rather than around the M25. I’m in MR’s brand-spanking new long-termer, a Ford Focus C-Max 1.5 TDCI, and it’s bimbling along nicely returning silly MPG.

Dermot O’Leary is on top form on Radio 2, and the only thing that could make life better is a good cup of tea.

I pull off at Tot Hill services, near Newbury, and pop into McDonalds for a quick brew. On returning to the C-Max, I reach into my pocket for the keys, and they’re not there. I check the other pocket, nope. That feeling when you realise you’ve lost something very important? That.

The keys are definitely not upon my person. I retract my steps into McDonalds, and they’re not anywhere. I speak to the manager, who confirms they haven’t been handed in. In desperation, I borrow a set of gloves from the cleaner and rummage through the bins, just in case I’ve chucked them away. Nope, they’re not to be found.

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

Convinced I’ve somehow locked them in the car, I dial the AA. They turn up very promptly (within 20 minutes), and show how, despite all the modern safety systems, it’s still surprisingly easy to break into a new car with the right tools. As long as you don’t mind causing a scene with the Ford’s ultra-loud alarm.

The keys aren’t inside. We search the car park, again. I comb McDonalds. I plea with the manager, who is evidently bored of me and unwilling to help. They’ve disappeared off the face of the planet.

What follows is a lesson on how something so simple can ruin your day. The AA man and I disable the car to stop it being stolen overnight – pulling out various fuses and disconnecting injector leads does the job. And then he helpfully drops me off at Newbury railway station to get home – a simple three trains and a tube job on a Saturday evening. Wonderful.

You’re an idiot, but how’s the car?

2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCI Titanium X: new arrival

I returned the next day with a spare key and was pleased to find the C-Max still in one piece and where I left it. Not only because it meant I didn’t have to explain to Ford just how I managed to lose their car, but also because I’d already started to bond with it.

It’s top spec Titanium X trim, meaning it’s got half-leather seats, cruise control and Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system. It’s also got just under £2,000 worth of extras of on it, including Ford’s clever blind spot information system with cross traffic alert (£400). When reversing out of a parking space, this detects traffic approaching and alerts you to vehicles you can’t see.

The new 1.5-litre diesel engine isn’t the most powerful unit – boasting just 120hp. But, on first impressions, that appears to be surprisingly plentiful for this MPV, despite an 11.3 second 0-62mph time.

What’s more impressive is the efficiency – a claimed 68.9mpg on the combined cycle, a figure we’ve already discovered is doable with some careful slipstreaming of HGVs. And it emits 105g/km CO2, resulting in £20 a year road tax.

The C-Max is set to be on the fleet for the next six months, so we’ll keep you updated about how we get on with it day to day. Hopefully the next six months won’t be quite so eventful.

MINI Clubman 2015

MINI Clubman review: 2015 first drive

MINI Clubman 2015The first MINI Clubman was a curio with weird doors flawed for British use. With this all-new second generation one, it’s getting sensible and serious – at becoming a cool alternative to the sternly serious Volkswagen Golf. Yes, with the new Clubman, MINI reckons it has its first ever family hatchback.

It’s confident, because the stats bear it out. A whopping 270mm longer than the MINI Hatch 5dr – a similar gap exists between the Ford Fiesta and Focus – it is also 73mm wider and has a 100mm longer wheelbase. The latter two stats promise significantly improved interior space (and the MINI 5dr isn’t as small as you’d perhaps think).

It has a Golf-sized boot at 360 litres, with Golf-like extendability to 1,250 litres thanks to split fold-flat seats. MINI’s made it posher than ever inside, with an electronic parking brake and even optional electric seats (for the first time ever in a MINI) and it says no MINI has ever rode this well.

Praise be, two normally-hinged rear doors open up the more passenger-friendly cabin, instead of the single should-have-stayed-on-the-drawing-board rear-hinged door of its predecessor. The twin outside-hinged ‘Clubdoor’ tailgate does remain though, and why not: this bit actually does work (and looks way cooler than a Golf’s hatchback).

MINI Clubman 2015

MINI’s been able to do all this because the new Clubman is based on the same ultra-flexible platform of the new Hatch – that’s the one also underpinning the BMW 2 Series Active and Gran Tourers, the X1 and the future 1 Series hatch. Itself a premium alternative to the family hatch mainstream.

With the Clubman, MINI’s role is to provide a more interesting alternative to a Golf and a more usable alternative to the MINI Hatch. Fleet users are on MINI’s radar with the Clubman (most sales to date are retail); previously, the cramped Clubman’s lack of proper rear doors excluded it from user chooser lists. Mums with kids are too: until now, when the children came, the MINI went.

British Clubmans will all be Coopers: that’s 136hp Cooper or 192hp Cooper S petrol, 150hp Cooper D or 190hp Cooper SD diesel. All are turbo, all are shared with the BMW 3 Series, as is the optional eight-speed automatic available in all but the standard Cooper MINIs for the first time.

Visually, as you can see, it remains polarising. The mini-estate lines have sculptural rear haunches, a slightly sporty curve to the roofline and terrific horizontal rear lights that make it look super-wide and chunky from the rear. It’s unlike nothing else and we like it. But not everyone will. Nor are they meant to, says MINI. Want derivative? Buy a Focus or Golf.

So, it’s a new class of MINI, according to the firm. Certainly, it’s competing in a new class, but does the Clubman convince in its newfound role as family hatch alternative to a Ford?

2015 MINI Clubman: on the road

MINI Clubman 2015

BMW’s excellent UKL platform means the MINI Clubman doesn’t feel like a BMW despite being based on one. It’s purposefully not as livewire as the MINI Hatch, but the genes are still there. It’s taut, alert, darts quickly and cleanly to the steering, delivers huge amounts of feel through its stiff chassis and general poise.

Standard 17-inch wheels are grippy and, again, the feel they deliver makes it easy to push on without wondering what’s happening beneath. Such directness is usually found in hot family hatches, but all Clubmans are likely to deliver it.

Compared to the Hatch, the steering is a bit slower and, surprisingly, more nervously electric-assist, but the dynamic edge is only toned down a bit, not eliminated.

Ride has been improved considerably over the Hatch. It’s striking, how much more compliant and absorbent the Clubman is. It’s less frenetic and irritable over broken surfaces, quieter and more serene when worked hard and has an underlying cushioning lacking in the hatch. Sure, compared to a Golf, it’s firmer, but it’s no more hard work than a 1 Series and probably preferable to an A-Class.

One caveat: the test cars had adaptive suspension. We’ll see how cars on standard passive suspension perform when UK cars arrive in the autumn.

MINI Clubman 2015

MINI launched it to us in Cooper S guise, with the raspy 192hp 2.0-litre taken from the BMW 3 Series. A strong, torquey engine, it spins smoothly and isn’t shy of getting the electronic front differential lock putting in overtime, although it does make some oddly high-tech whines and whirrs at times.

The engine’s lack of aural appeal is compensated by its exhaust. In Sport mode (flick the cheap-feeling collar around the gearlever to the left), it rasps and burbles amusingly, regularly popping and crackling on the overrun in a childishly fun way. The exhausts ‘sound’ naturally tuned too, aided by the echo chamber of the Clubman rear; turning off Sport mode mutes them, sadly.

2015 MINI Clubman: on the inside

MINI Clubman 2015

The beautifully-finished interior is another Clubman surprise. With premium materials throughout and attention to detail sometimes lacking in the Hatch, it’s set to surprise those coming from both a regular MINI and a Focus or Golf, and draw comparisons with the 3 Series sitting in the BMW showroom next door.

The design is also different to the Hatch. It’s more grown up, more substantial, with things such as a proper centre console, proper door armrests and proper central cubby armrest all making it feel like a mini BMW. Practicality is superb, from the bottle holders in the doors to the stowage-packed capacity of the centre console (we love the tartan-effect rubber mats too).

Flat side glass gives the usual clear MINI view out, with over-shoulder vision enhanced by large, deep rear windows. The rear-view mirror does have a big black line through the centre of course, although the adorably cute little twin wipers work well.

MINI Clubman 2015

In the back, first tick: it has normal doors. Two of them. Second tick: it’s easy to step in and out – easier than the 5dr Hatch, thanks to the stretched wheelbase. The bench is a bit low and flat, but it’s passable – and levels of space are more than up to measure for a family hatch.

Your six-foot correspondent sat behind a driver’s seat positioned for him and found plenty of leg and kneeroom; no need to shove the front seat forward. In a MINI! Even headroom is adult-friendly (although watch your head on the sides as they do intrude a little).

MINI Clubman 2015

Star of the show is the boot. 90% of people only open a single Clubdoor (an interlock means you have to open right and close left first). Gas struts make it contactless: press the remote and the right whooshes open, the left hinging out with another press. Or kick your foot beneath to do it hands-free.

The space is ample and it’s cleverly designed to be square and practical. Being able to walk right up to the squared-off rear, without having to duck below a tailgate, is an unexpected bonus, and MINI even claims that the doors make it easier to load in tight parking bays, despite not looking it.

The Clubdoors even have cubbies within them; a novel feature on the original Clubman, they’ve grown up into a genuinely useful differentiator, well supported by all the extra space behind them.

2015 MINI Clubman: running costs

MINI Clubman 2015

MINI’s expecting great residuals which, combined with surprisingly keen pricing, will keep PCP payments low and affordability high. Starting from £19,995 for the Cooper – with BMW-grade colour sat nav standard on all – it’s no wonder more than half of buyers are expected to pay £2,785 for a Chili pack upgrade.

The Chili pack claims to save 30% on the price of options it adds. Goodies include part-leather heated sports seats, climate control, parking sensors and, impressively, LED headlights and foglamps.

The Cooper D Clubman costs £22,265, making the £33,755 Cooper S Clubman look a bit of a bargain. Only the £24,255 tag of the Cooper SD Clubman seems steep, although 190hp and 295lb ft of torque – the most ever in a MINI – will help some justify it.

The Cooper SD averages 62.8mpg and emits 119g/km CO2, which is also impressive. The test Cooper S officially claims 45.6mpg and 144g/km CO2, which may limit its fleet friendliness. Choose an auto on both S and SD for a few mpg more; it makes no difference on the Cooper and Cooper D.

The Cooper D claims 68.9mpg and 109g/km, which is good, but you pay that £2,270 extra for it (or, at least, the accompanying PCP monthly uplift). Will it really save that much over the Clubman, which returns 55.4mpg and emits 118g/km CO2? For this reason, expect the standard Cooper to be the most popular Clubman by far.

2015 MINI Clubman: verdict

MINI Clubman 2015

The old MINI Clubman was a nice idea; now, it’s a nice car, and a very nice alternative for those bored by Focus and Golfs. Within minutes of speaking to him, MINI’s product manager was drawing comparisons with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. After spending a day with it, we understood why.

It’s roomy, sophisticated and practical inside, makes good use of BMW tech (engines, infotainment) but still feels like a fun MINI to drive – without making everyone else suffer for the driver’s enjoyment.

It still looks like a Clubman, so will still be love it or hate it, and that’s exactly what MINI wants. That’s the MINI-ness: you get it or you don’t. But now it’s grown up and focused on what it wants to be, and does it well, we feel many more people than before will indeed get it.

2015 MINI Clubman: specifications

Petrol engines: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo

Diesel engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Price: £19,995 – £24,255

Power: 136 – 192hp

Torque: 162 – 295lb ft

0-62mph: 9.1 – 7.4

Top speed: 127 – TBA

Fuel economy: 45.6 – 68.9

CO2 emissions: 109 – 144g/km

Citroen C-Zero £11,995

Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iON prices drop to £11,995

Citroen C-Zero £11,995

Good news! You can now buy a zero-emissions Citroen C-Zero or Peugeot iON for as little as £11,995.

The Citroen C-Zero, Peugeot iON and Mitsubishi i-MiEV are the forgotten cars of the electric vehicle (EV) sector. Back in 2009, when trials of the i-MiEV commenced in the UK, EV technology was still in its infancy and few people fancied taking the plunge. Fast forward six years and the likes of the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and Tesla Model S have revolutionised the sector.

The quirky i-MiEV and its French siblings suffered from being too quick to market – and a hefty price tag. A wildly optimistic pre-Plug-in Car Grant (PICG) price tag of £38,699 was initially slapped on the electric Mitsubishi, before it was dropped to a more respectable £28,990. Better, but still too expensive.

Sadly for Citroen, Peugeot and Mitsubishi, as EV technology moved on, the C-Zero/iON/i-MiEV simply became outmoded and overpriced. The French pair were slightly cheaper at a little over £26,000, but even with the £5,000 saving, it was simply too much money.

But rather than let the electric cars gather dust, Citroen and Peugeot have had the sense to drop the price tag to a more acceptable £16,995. Deduct the PICG and that’s a suddenly-quite-appealing £11,995. Crucially, that price includes the batteries.

So what does £11,995 buy in the electric car world?

Peugeot iON £11,995

Well a range of 93 miles is possible, but you’ll need to go easy on the silent pedal to get that far. The 65hp electric motor will also propel the C-Zero/iON to an unlikely top speed of 80mph. There’s enough room for four tall adults and a respectable 166-litre boot. So what’s the catch?

Peugeot is only offering the iON through 22 specialist Peugeot iON dealers, so you’ll need to make sure there’s one near you. You unlikely to find it a particularly enjoyable car to drive and the real-world range is likely to be closer to 60 miles. And it’s hardly the newest electric car on the market.

But at £11,995 you can almost forgive it all its sins. Unless of course you paid £26,000 for one and are left with a used car headache. Glass’s recently reported that electric cars are among the worst first-year depreciators, with the Citroen C-Zero retaining just 32.07% after 12 months. Ouch.

Volkswagen Das Auto

Dieselgate latest: what we’ve learnt today

Volkswagen Das Auto

As predicted, 24 hours after the departure of Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, the diesel emissions scandal has spread into Europe. Here’s our rolling blog of what we’ve learnt…

Friday 25th September

Matthias Müller confirmed as new CEO

As expected, Matthias Müller has been confirmed as the new CEO of Volkswagen Group, replacing Martin Winterkorn, who resigned earlier in the week. You can read about Müller, here.

Fines up to $37,500 per vehicle

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just concluded a media call, in which its director, Christopher Grundler, reiterated that VW could be fined up to $37,500 per violation.

Faced with criticism that it failed to react sooner, Grundler said the EPA was “not naive”, but did say “we are upping our game.” Acting assistant administrator Janet McCabe said the EPA has written to all carmakers saying it would be stepping up its testing in the wake of the scandal.

We now await the conclusion of the Volkswagen board meeting, in which Matthias Müller is tipped to become CEO.

Daimler ‘categorically deny’ any accusations

Daimler has been quick to distance itself from the scandal casting a huge shadow over its German counterpart. In a statement, it made the following points:

“We categorically deny the accusation of manipulating emission tests regarding our vehicles. A defeat device, a function which illegitimately reduces emissions during testing, has never been and will never be used at Daimler. This holds true for both diesel and petrol engines. Our engines meet and adhere to every legal requirement.

In light of the written request by the DUH, which was sent to us this morning with a deadline to respond by 3:00 pm (CET), and the seven questions they posed, we can confirm that none of the allegations apply to our vehicles. The technical programming of our engines adheres to all legal requirements.

We have no knowledge of measurements that indicate our vehicles did not meet legally required standards.

We actively support the work being done within Europe and Germany in order to develop new testing methods which measure emissions based on real driving conditions.

We work closely and constructively with the responsible authorities in Germany, Europe and the United States and will willingly provide any vehicle for testing.

We’d like to point out that we are evaluating our legal options pertaining to the approach taken and the public assertions made by the DUH.”

And so the saga continues. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue a statement at 3pm.

RAC: ‘an uncomfortable light’

The UK’s motoring organisations are adding their weight to the debate over the ever-widening scandal. Earlier today, RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “While there is no evidence that other manufacturers have been seeking to defeat emissions tests, news that the Government is launching its own investigation should go some way towards restoring battered consumer confidence.

“The VW revelation is now shining an uncomfortable light on the emissions testing system, parts of which have been recognised for some time by all parties to be well past their ‘sell by’ date.

“A new EU test has been in the pipeline for some considerable time, and the expectations are that results will be much closer to real-world driving, but it is unrealistic to think a laboratory test will ever mirror completely a car being driven on a real road by different drivers.

“As this is not due to take effect until 2017 all attention must now be put on ensuring the test cannot be defeated by software so that consumers can be confident in the emissions levels of the vehicles they are buying.”

Greenpeace: ‘no more lies’

Greenpeace has been protesting outside the board meeting in Wolfsburg, taking to Twitter to demand “no more lies.”

On its Energy Desk website, Greenpeace has said the Volkswagen emissions rigging scandal “could be responsible for hundreds of extra deaths a year, due to increased risks of chronic diseases from air pollution. “The analysis comes as research by Greenpeace’s investigations unit found that of the 11 million cars potentially affected by the fault up to 400,000 were sold in the UK alone.”

Greenpeace goes on to quote the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statement which suggests the vehicles emit 10 to 40 times as much pollution as allowed by legal limits. This could, according to Greenpeace, have led to excess NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions of between 60,000 and 24,000 tonnes a year.

Greenpeace claims this could cause “approximately 1,700 premature deaths a year due to increased risk of chronic diseases from air pollution such as cardiovascular diseases, strokes and ischaemic heart disease.”

1.2-litre TDI engines also affected

The supervisory board meeting is well underway and, according to Reuters, is taking longer than expected because a new corporate structure is also being discussed. Earlier this afternoon, German transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, announced that 1.2-litre diesel engines are also affected by the scandal, adding to the 1.6-litre TDI and 2.0-litre TDI already confirmed.

As yet there’s no word on the V6 TDI units, although light trucks have also been manipulated to cheat the emissions test. It means a total of 2.8 million vehicles in Germany are affected, resulting in Volkswagen shares slumping by between 3 and 4%.

Volkswagen facing ‘lawsuit tsunami’

CNN is reporting that Volkswagen is already facing 34 federal lawsuits in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal. Owners are claiming their cars are less valuable than before and suing Volkswagen for compensation.

This follows the $1.1 billion settlement Toyota agreed to pay in 2014 following the unintended acceleration issue, with $250 million set aside to compensate owners of cars bought between September 2009 and December 2010. The owners claimed their cars were worth less thanks to the negative publicity surrounding the brake pedal issue.

So there’s certainly form for this kind of settlement. As Deutsche Welle is reporting this morning, ‘the biggest-ever class action lawsuit against the company’ is tantamount to a ‘lawsuit tsunami headed for Volkswagen.’

Thursday 24 September

According to Germany’s transport minister, Volkswagen has admitted using the same methods in Europe as it did in the US. Alexander Dobrindt also said he had been told 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines are affected, although he was unsure how many of the 11 million vehicles involved were actually sold in Europe. Given the popularity of diesel-engined cars in Europe, the scandal could be even bigger than that witnessed in the US.

Senior managers set to leave?

German newspaper, Bild, is reporting two high-ranking Volkswagen engineers will be forced to quit. Friday’s supervisory board meeting could signal the end for Wolfgang Hatz (below), head of research and development at Porsche and head of engines and transmissions development at Volkswagen. At the same time, Ulrich Hackenberg, head of Audi’s technical development is expected to be asked to leave. Wolfgang Hatz According to ITV, Michael Horn, chief executive of Volkswagen US, will also be dismissed. Horn is the CEO who famously said Volkswagen had “totally screwed up”, after news of the emissions rigging first surfaced.

BMW shares down 7%

Meanwhile, shares in BMW are down by 7% after reports suggested the emissions of its X3 exceeded EU levels. For its part, BMW has said “The BMW group does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests. We observe the legal requirement in each country and adhere to all local testing requirements. “We are not familiar with the test mentioned by Auto Bild concerning the emissions of a BMW X3 during a road test.

No specific details of the test have yet been provided and therefore we cannot explain these results.” Earlier today, other carmakers saw their shares take a nosedive, with Peugeot taking a 6.7% hit. Daimler lot 5.6%, Chrysler 5.2% and Renault 3.7%. Shares in Volkswagen recovered following Winterkorn’s exit, trading 1.4% higher than the time before his departure.

Skoda models affected

Soon after lunchtime, Skoda was dragged into the scandal, with another of its models linked to Dieselgate. In a tweet, Greg Kable said:

 

The UK response

Predictably, MPs in the UK are taking an interest in the story, with Louise Ellman, chair of the transport select committee, saying: “There are questions over whether the testing authorities commissioned by motor manufacturers are truly independent. Do the results found in test conditions truly reflect real life situations on the road? 

It is vital that the UK Government, the authorities in Germany and in the European Commission take action to clarify the extent to which vehicles on UK and European roads are affected by the issues that have been identified in the United States. They must take steps to restore public confidence.”

More to follow…

Volkswagen Das Auto

Dieselgate latest: what we've learnt today

Volkswagen Das Auto

As predicted, 24 hours after the departure of Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, the diesel emissions scandal has spread into Europe. Here’s our rolling blog of what we’ve learnt…

Friday 25th September

Matthias Müller confirmed as new CEO

As expected, Matthias Müller has been confirmed as the new CEO of Volkswagen Group, replacing Martin Winterkorn, who resigned earlier in the week. You can read about Müller, here.

Fines up to $37,500 per vehicle

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just concluded a media call, in which its director, Christopher Grundler, reiterated that VW could be fined up to $37,500 per violation.

Faced with criticism that it failed to react sooner, Grundler said the EPA was “not naive”, but did say “we are upping our game.” Acting assistant administrator Janet McCabe said the EPA has written to all carmakers saying it would be stepping up its testing in the wake of the scandal.

We now await the conclusion of the Volkswagen board meeting, in which Matthias Müller is tipped to become CEO.

Daimler ‘categorically deny’ any accusations

Daimler has been quick to distance itself from the scandal casting a huge shadow over its German counterpart. In a statement, it made the following points:

“We categorically deny the accusation of manipulating emission tests regarding our vehicles. A defeat device, a function which illegitimately reduces emissions during testing, has never been and will never be used at Daimler. This holds true for both diesel and petrol engines. Our engines meet and adhere to every legal requirement.

In light of the written request by the DUH, which was sent to us this morning with a deadline to respond by 3:00 pm (CET), and the seven questions they posed, we can confirm that none of the allegations apply to our vehicles. The technical programming of our engines adheres to all legal requirements.

We have no knowledge of measurements that indicate our vehicles did not meet legally required standards.

We actively support the work being done within Europe and Germany in order to develop new testing methods which measure emissions based on real driving conditions.

We work closely and constructively with the responsible authorities in Germany, Europe and the United States and will willingly provide any vehicle for testing.

We’d like to point out that we are evaluating our legal options pertaining to the approach taken and the public assertions made by the DUH.”

And so the saga continues. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue a statement at 3pm.

RAC: ‘an uncomfortable light’

The UK’s motoring organisations are adding their weight to the debate over the ever-widening scandal. Earlier today, RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “While there is no evidence that other manufacturers have been seeking to defeat emissions tests, news that the Government is launching its own investigation should go some way towards restoring battered consumer confidence.

“The VW revelation is now shining an uncomfortable light on the emissions testing system, parts of which have been recognised for some time by all parties to be well past their ‘sell by’ date.

“A new EU test has been in the pipeline for some considerable time, and the expectations are that results will be much closer to real-world driving, but it is unrealistic to think a laboratory test will ever mirror completely a car being driven on a real road by different drivers.

“As this is not due to take effect until 2017 all attention must now be put on ensuring the test cannot be defeated by software so that consumers can be confident in the emissions levels of the vehicles they are buying.”

Greenpeace: ‘no more lies’

Greenpeace has been protesting outside the board meeting in Wolfsburg, taking to Twitter to demand “no more lies.”

On its Energy Desk website, Greenpeace has said the Volkswagen emissions rigging scandal “could be responsible for hundreds of extra deaths a year, due to increased risks of chronic diseases from air pollution. “The analysis comes as research by Greenpeace’s investigations unit found that of the 11 million cars potentially affected by the fault up to 400,000 were sold in the UK alone.”

Greenpeace goes on to quote the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statement which suggests the vehicles emit 10 to 40 times as much pollution as allowed by legal limits. This could, according to Greenpeace, have led to excess NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions of between 60,000 and 24,000 tonnes a year.

Greenpeace claims this could cause “approximately 1,700 premature deaths a year due to increased risk of chronic diseases from air pollution such as cardiovascular diseases, strokes and ischaemic heart disease.”

1.2-litre TDI engines also affected

The supervisory board meeting is well underway and, according to Reuters, is taking longer than expected because a new corporate structure is also being discussed. Earlier this afternoon, German transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, announced that 1.2-litre diesel engines are also affected by the scandal, adding to the 1.6-litre TDI and 2.0-litre TDI already confirmed.

As yet there’s no word on the V6 TDI units, although light trucks have also been manipulated to cheat the emissions test. It means a total of 2.8 million vehicles in Germany are affected, resulting in Volkswagen shares slumping by between 3 and 4%.

Volkswagen facing ‘lawsuit tsunami’

CNN is reporting that Volkswagen is already facing 34 federal lawsuits in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal. Owners are claiming their cars are less valuable than before and suing Volkswagen for compensation.

This follows the $1.1 billion settlement Toyota agreed to pay in 2014 following the unintended acceleration issue, with $250 million set aside to compensate owners of cars bought between September 2009 and December 2010. The owners claimed their cars were worth less thanks to the negative publicity surrounding the brake pedal issue.

So there’s certainly form for this kind of settlement. As Deutsche Welle is reporting this morning, ‘the biggest-ever class action lawsuit against the company’ is tantamount to a ‘lawsuit tsunami headed for Volkswagen.’

Thursday 24 September

According to Germany’s transport minister, Volkswagen has admitted using the same methods in Europe as it did in the US. Alexander Dobrindt also said he had been told 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines are affected, although he was unsure how many of the 11 million vehicles involved were actually sold in Europe. Given the popularity of diesel-engined cars in Europe, the scandal could be even bigger than that witnessed in the US.

Senior managers set to leave?

German newspaper, Bild, is reporting two high-ranking Volkswagen engineers will be forced to quit. Friday’s supervisory board meeting could signal the end for Wolfgang Hatz (below), head of research and development at Porsche and head of engines and transmissions development at Volkswagen. At the same time, Ulrich Hackenberg, head of Audi’s technical development is expected to be asked to leave. Wolfgang Hatz According to ITV, Michael Horn, chief executive of Volkswagen US, will also be dismissed. Horn is the CEO who famously said Volkswagen had “totally screwed up”, after news of the emissions rigging first surfaced.

BMW shares down 7%

Meanwhile, shares in BMW are down by 7% after reports suggested the emissions of its X3 exceeded EU levels. For its part, BMW has said “The BMW group does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests. We observe the legal requirement in each country and adhere to all local testing requirements. “We are not familiar with the test mentioned by Auto Bild concerning the emissions of a BMW X3 during a road test.

No specific details of the test have yet been provided and therefore we cannot explain these results.” Earlier today, other carmakers saw their shares take a nosedive, with Peugeot taking a 6.7% hit. Daimler lot 5.6%, Chrysler 5.2% and Renault 3.7%. Shares in Volkswagen recovered following Winterkorn’s exit, trading 1.4% higher than the time before his departure.

Skoda models affected

Soon after lunchtime, Skoda was dragged into the scandal, with another of its models linked to Dieselgate. In a tweet, Greg Kable said:

 

The UK response

Predictably, MPs in the UK are taking an interest in the story, with Louise Ellman, chair of the transport select committee, saying: “There are questions over whether the testing authorities commissioned by motor manufacturers are truly independent. Do the results found in test conditions truly reflect real life situations on the road? 

It is vital that the UK Government, the authorities in Germany and in the European Commission take action to clarify the extent to which vehicles on UK and European roads are affected by the issues that have been identified in the United States. They must take steps to restore public confidence.”

More to follow…

Martin Winterkorn

Who is Martin Winterkorn?

Martin Winterkorn

Prof. Martin Winterkorn was born in May 1947, in Leonberg, Germany. Between 1966 and 1973 he studied Metallurgy and Metal Physics at the University of Stuttgart, before becoming a PhD student at the Max-Planck-Institute for Metal Research. It was here that he received his doctorate in 1977.

He joined Bosch in 1977, moving to Audi in 1981 as an assistant to the member of the board for quality assurance. Following several internal moves at Audi, he became head of group quality assurance at Volkswagen in 1993. Winterkorn took on the responsibility for many other roles at Volkswagen and latterly at Audi, before becoming chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen AG in January 2007, taking over from Bernd Pischetsrieder.

At the same time he also became chairman of the supervisory board of Audi AG and, a month later, the member of board of management responsible for group research and development. He was chairman of the board of management of the Volkswagen brand until June 2015. In 2009, Winterkorn joined the board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Stuttgart, assuming responsibility as chairman of the board of management.

It is said that Winterkorn was instrumental in encouraging former Volkswagen CEO Ferdinand Piëch to approve the production of the new Volkswagen Beetle. The original concept was unveiled at the 1994 North American International Auto Show, with production starting in 1997.

Ambition and attention to detail

Prof. Winterkorn, a huge football fan and German’s highest paid CEO, became known as a hugely ambitious man with a meticulous attention to detail. He would berate staff over the smallest of details, which in brings into question how such a huge scandal could slip by unnoticed. This is the man who would carry a measuring stick to check the uniformity of parts.

He publicly declared his aim of seeing Volkswagen become the world’s largest carmaker, an ambition he realised in June 2015, when Volkswagen sold more vehicles in the first half of the year than Toyota did.

Earlier this year he survived attempts by Ferdinand Piëch to force him out of the company, gaining support from government and officials. The reasons for the challenge to his leadership are unclear, but Piëch was forced to resign. More light may be shed on this matter over the coming weeks.

Martin Winterkorn and Angela Merkel

In 2012, Top Gear magazine named Winterkorn as one of ‘the men of the year’, based on his ability to keep ‘Volkswagen moving forward against the tide.’ He is listed as number 58 in the Forbes list of most powerful people, with an entry that states he has ‘urged European regulators not to overburden the automotive industry with excessive emission targets.’

Winterkorn: ‘I’m utterly sorry’

Speaking after news broke of the so-called Dieselgate scandal, Prof. Winterkorn said: “I’m very sorry, I’m utterly sorry.

“The violations of these diesel motors by our company go against everything that Volkswagen stands for… At this time I don’t yet have the answers to all the questions.

“I am endlessly sorry that we betrayed the trust. I apologise profusely to our clients, to the authorities and the entire public for the wrongdoing.”

Earlier this year, Winterkorn predicted 2015 would be a tough year for Volkswagen, saying: “We have always emphasised that 2015 will be a challenging year for the automotive industry as a whole, and also for us. Our key figures show that the VW Group remains on course, despite the headwinds.”

Needless to say, Winterkorn couldn’t have predicted just how challenging 2015 would shape up to be. Rather than signing a contract extension this week, Winterkorn stepped down from his position at the head of VW Group on 23 September.